Death toll in Punjab spurious liquor tragedy rises to 104

Chandigarh: The death toll in the Punjab hooch tragedy rose to 104 on Sunday with 18 more people reported dead after drinking spurious liquor, an official said.

Seventeen of the 18 deaths were reported from the worst-hit Tarn Taran and one from Gurdaspur’s Batala.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s Media Adviser Raveen Thukral tweeted that the death toll in the tragedy went up to 104 with 80 casualties in Tarn Taran and 12 each in Gurdaspur’s Batala and Amritsar.

Till Saturday night, the state authorities had reported 86 casualties in the tragedy unfolding in the three Punjab districts since Wednesday evening.

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Earlier in the day, Tarn Taran Deputy Commissioner Kulwant Singh had said the death count in the district was updated on the basis of the information received from the field as the victims’ last rites had already been performed by their families.

Officials said some of the families were not even coming forward to report the death of their kin after drinking spurious liquor.

Meanwhile, the Opposition in Punjab attacked the state government over the hooch tragedy with the SAD asking Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to step down and demanding action against Congress leaders “patronising spurious liquor trade”.

The SAD rejected the magisterial inquiry ordered by the state government and sought a probe either by the CBI or a sitting judge of the high court.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demanded an investigation by the CBI with its state chief Bhagwant Mann indicating that political leaders might be involved in it.

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AAP also held a statewide agitation against the government.

SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia accused the state government of suppressing the actual number of casualties.

Majithia demanded immediate action against the Congress legislators patronising spurious liquor trade .

Congress legislators, police officials and liquor mafia are responsible for the hooch tragedy. Action should be taken against all them, instead of targeting lower rank officials, said Majithia.

Meanwhile, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann, who met families of the victims in Tarn Taran, said, Nothing will happen with the transfer of some officers. The problem is deep rooted and there is a big nexus. People are openly taking names of leaders. There should be a probe by the CBI.”

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in a statement said strict action is being taken against all those found guilty in cases of illicit brewing and smuggling. He said in the hooch tragedy, 30 people have already been arrested in three districts.

Moreover, 13 officials from the police and excise and taxation departments had been suspended for negligence while investigations are on to ascertain their complicity in the case, he said.

A magisterial inquiry had ordered with the mandate to submit its report within a month, he said, asking what was the need for CBI to take over the case when the local police was handling it so effectively.

His response had come after his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal sought a CBI probe into the tragedy, claiming that none of the cases pertaining to illicit liquor in the last few months have been solved by the local police.

Responding to it, the Punjab chief minister told the AAP leader to “mind his own business”. He asked the Delhi CM not to exploit the tragic affair for reviving his defunct Aam Aadmi Party’s stake in the state.